An organization that certifies computer software as consumer-friendly and noninvasive has suspended comScore Inc. and one of its programs used to track Internet usage.
TRUSTe, whose Trusted Download Program is designed to help potential advertisers and partners steer clear of unwanted spyware and adware, said an outside distributor had failed to obtain the proper consent for installing comScore's RelevantKnowledge software.
Under the program's rules, certified adware and other software must obtain consent before downloading, be easy to uninstall and cannot modify computer settings to cause damage or harm.
Although comScore acted promptly when informed of a rogue distributor, TRUSTe said, RelevantKnowledge was removed last month from a Trusted Download safe list, effective until at least early October.
TRUSTe said the distributor took advantage of unspecified security flaws to automatically download and install RelevantKnowledge without consent. Distributors are often paid per copy installed.
ComScore uses distributors to help extend the reach of its software, which can come bundled with free products and services like screensavers, games and online backup.
TRUSTe said comScore would have to implement several changes to regain trusted status, including placing comScore in greater control of obtaining consent and improving auditing.
Tom Cushing, a privacy officer at comScore, said the company has agreed to such measures and was able to disable installations made by the distributor in question.
"We have since come up with some new methodologies we can use to make sure this type of thing can't happen," Cushing said.
ComScore uses RelevantKnowledge to track users' online browsing activities and purchasing behaviors as part of reports the Reston, Va., company provides on where and when people surf and for how long.
The company's other tracking software, PermissionResearch and OpinionSquare, are not part of TRUSTe's program and are thus unaffected, Cushing said.